The cover of the National Association of Science Writers' bid for San Francisco as the location for the 2017 World Conference for Science Journalism.
The cover of the National Association of Science Writers’ bid for San Francisco as the location for the 2017 World Conference for Science Journalism. (Image Credit World Federation of Science Journalists)

Science communicators in Northern California are about to get a taste of the global stage.

San Francisco has won the bid as the location for the 2017 World Conference of Science Journalists, the flagship event of the World Federation of Science Journalists. The decision was announced June 10th during the 9th World Conference in Seoul, South Korea, when the California city was chosen over Copenhagen, Denmark.

The National Association for Science Writers (NASW) drew up the successful bid for San Francisco, partnering with the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing and the University of California campuses at San Francisco and Berkeley.

Past conferences were held in Helsinki, Doha, London, Melbourne, Montréal, São José dos Campos, and Budapest, with Tokyo being the site of the first-ever WCSJ in 1992.

“San Francisco is an iconic world city,” says Tinsley Davis, executive director of the NASW. “You stumble over science at every corner.”

NASW had already planned for San Francisco to be the site of its ScienceWriters conference in 2017. The successful WCSJ bid means the international conference will now take the place of the national conference for that year—an expanded #sciwri17 meeting with international flair.

Robert Sanders, manager of Science Communications in the Media Relations department at UC Berkeley and a board member of the Northern California Science Writers Association (NCSWA), says the conference will allow journalists a chance to discuss the problems they face in their work.

“It’s a chance for journalists to mingle, talk about how their jobs are similar and how they’re different, and gain an international perspective,” says Sanders, who was in attendance at the Seoul conference.

The 2017 conference will be particularly focused on journalists from Latin America, says Robert Irion, director of the Science Communication program at the University of California Santa Cruz, and an active leader on NASW committees and projects.

“We hope to inspire a large number of Latin American journalists and communicators,” Irion says. “We’re trying to foster science journalism in Central and South America.”

The World Conference of Science Journalists 2017 will be held with the theme of
The World Conference of Science Journalists 2017 will be held with the theme of “Bridging Science and Societies”. (Image Credit National Association of Science Writers)

The conference will include a virtual newsroom and mentoring sessions for students. Fifteen international students and 10 from the United States will be selected from solicited applications to work in the newsroom under Irion. These students will report on the meetings and sessions, posting their stories to a website created specifically for the purpose.

“Students will get to see first-hand how this field works,” Irion says “We thought it would be a good idea to involve students in covering the meetings on a deadline.”

Programs for the event will also include excursions and field trips around the Bay Area, Irion explained. Sanders says he will oversee one of the trips, when journalists will split up and visit the campuses of the two university sponsors, Berkeley and UCSF.

The Marriott Marquis hotel—a block away from the San Francisco Chronicle building—is the planned venue for the conference, which will coincide with the Bay Area Science Festival to draw more excitement, Davis says.

Once the venue is secured, the organizing committee will start looking for local volunteers to propose and implement program ideas and speakers for the conference. Opportunities for volunteers, field trips, and sponsorship will be announced, once project timelines and program committees solidify.

NASW’s Davis is eager for the Northern California science community—including Sacramento, Davis, and the Capital Region—to get involved in the conference planning:

“The world conference is going to take a village.”

Read through the winning proposal for the 2017 San Francisco conference here: http://www.wfsj.org/files/image/news/2015/WCSJ_2017_SanFrancisco_bid_comp.pdf

Additional reporting by Ben Young Landis.

— James Eldred

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